Running a small business can be a high-wire act, navigating the challenges of everyday operations alongside the bigger-picture issues of the day. Small business owners and entrepreneurs walk the razor-edge between success and failure on any given day, and that has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this public health crisis, business owners have seen unprecedented challenges. Many industries, including the restaurant and tourism industries, have been required to shut down for extended periods or to restrict their activities in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. This has put increased strain on businesses, often cutting into their earning potential at key times.
One entrepreneurial support organization is working to provide a little Christmas cheer to an Arkansas small business. The Venture Center has launched the VC Holiday Grant Program, which is raising funds that will benefit a local small business that is in need of support.
According to executive director Wayne Miller, the Venture Center’s previous programs have provided a sobering glimpse of the need that Arkansas businesses have now for assistance. With the assistance of his full staff, the Venture Center set out to help a local business in a safe and socially distanced manner.
“This year, small business owners and entrepreneurs have struggled against nearly impossible odds due to COVID-19. Our community programs supporting entrepreneurs have seen incredible engagement because people are looking for ways to keep their businesses afloat, so we’re close to the issues affecting small business owners,”he said. “We’ve had two big pitch competitions that provided nearly $60,000 in funding to local small businesses. Through those pitch competitions, we saw hundreds of applicants looking for a boost. For a small business, cash flow is survival. Every little bit helps, so we decided to do more to address the continued need.”
Throughout the VC Holiday Giving Program, Miller hopes to get a business that may be struggling through its challenges and to a brighter future. But he has a broader goal of shining a light on the overall situation that small business everywhere are facing.
“Our goal for the program is simply to help a small business get through these challenging times. We want to help with cash flow, but we also want to help strengthen their connections in the community. When small businesses get involved with The Venture Center, we hold them close! Also, we’d like to increase awareness overall about the small business offerings we have right here. We want to encourage our community to support them,” Miller told Arkansas Money & Politics.
Contributing to the VC Holiday Giving Program and supporting other businesses, Miller said, is vital because the economy and local communities depend on small businesses to remain “healthy and strong.” These small business owners and entrepreneurs are the engines that help propel the economy even – and often especially – when it is at its direst.
“They need our support to get through this crisis. Once we’re on the other side of this, we’ll need our small businesses that make our communities vibrant, that provide jobs, and that grow our economies,” he said.
Looking forward, Miller said that the Venture Center may revisit the holiday grant program is there is continued need for it. In the meantime, the Venture Center plans to continue its slate of pitch competitions aimed at Arkansas companies, which provide cash prizes, as well as educational and professional development that have served to strengthen the entrepreneurial community in Arkansas. The Venture Center is also growing its mentorship program to assist small business owners – an essential tool for someone who may need a sounding board.
To help out with the VC Holiday Giving Program, click here and contribute any amount.
The Venture Center staff will be selecting a winner based on nominations and will announce the winner on December 23.